Trump Vetoes 3 Bills Prohibiting Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
A bipartisan effort to restrict US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia has been vetoed by the White House. President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia and the UAE served as a “bulwark against the malign activities of Iran.”
(July 25, 2019) — US President Donald Trump vetoed three Congress bills that would have blocked billions of dollars in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The Congressional effort, which also included representatives of the Republican party, comes as a response to the Trump administration’s decision to sideline the US lawmakers. When the $8.1 billion (€7.3 billion) sale was announced last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they would bypass the usual congressional review by declaring a national security emergency. Pompeo justified the emergency by pointing to the alleged threat of Iran. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are Iran’s main opponents in the Middle East.
The head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, slammed it as a “slap in the face” to Congress and accused the Trump administration of using Iran as a “convenient excuse.”
More Weapons, Fewer Dead Civilians?
Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies are a sensitive topic in the US after Saudi operatives brutally murdered Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi in October. The Saudis are also leading a coalition fighting pro-Iran rebels in Yemen, with the UN saying the conflict has triggered the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis. Some 10 million people are suffering extreme levels of hunger, according to UN officials.
In a letter explaining his veto on Wednesday, Trump said that “more – not fewer – civilians are likely to become causalities” without precision-guided US weapons.
Trump also described Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a “bulwark against the malign activities of Iran and its proxies in the region.”
Restricting the sale would “weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners,” the letter added.
Pelosi Slams Veto as ‘Shameful’
The US lawmakers now need a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate to override Trump’s veto. Although representatives of both parties backed the three bills, it is unlikely that the body would have enough votes to push through the restrictions.
“The president’s shameful veto tramples over the will of the bipartisan, bicameral Congress and perpetuates his administration’s involvement in the horrific conflict in Yemen, which is a stain on the conscience of the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia buys more US-made weapons than any other country in the world. Ryiadh bought nearly $11.5 billion of American weapons between 2014 and 2018, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The US has been providing logistical support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen since 2015.
7,500 Kids ‘Killed or Maimed’ in Yemen Since 2013, UN Says
(June 29, 2019) — The suffering of children caught up in the Yemen conflict has become “simply appalling,” according to a UN report. It says thousands of kids have been killed, recruited as soldiers and subjected to devastating violence.
More than 7,500 children have been killed or wounded in Yemen over the past 5 1/2 years, the UN said in a report published Friday.
The impoverished Arab country descended into conflict in 2014, leading to what has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres documented thousands of grave violations against children between April 2013 and December 2018.
“The suffering of children in Yemen has worsened during the reporting period, becoming simply appalling,” Virginia Gamba, the UN special representative for children in conflict, said. “The civilian population, especially children, is kept hostage of a conflict they didn’t choose to be in.”
The war in Yemen broke out in 2014 when Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa, and drove President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. In early 2015, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, and aligned with Hadi, joined the fighting. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.
String of Atrocities
The report said the worst statistic in the list of violations was the 7,508 children who were killed or maimed by airstrikes, shelling, ground fighting, mines or suicide attacks.
The second largest violation was the use of child soldiers, with 3,034 children verified as recruited — 1,940 of them by the Houthis and 274 by Hadi government forces.
Attacks on schools and hospitals remained alarmingly high, the report said, with buildings severely damaged or destroyed in 345 out of the 381 cases.
It also documented 11 incidents of rape and sexual violence, but stressed that cases were under-reported “mainly for fear of stigmatization and lack of appropriate response services.”
The UN warned that millions of Yemenis are on the brink of famine — more than 8 million children do not have sufficient access to water, while 2 million are severely malnourished.
The United Nations is calling for more donations to help the desperate population of Yemen at a special conference in Geneva. However, lack of funds isn’t the only difficulty faced by aid workers in the country. (26.02.2019)
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